The rapprochement between the United States and Russia will result in a deterioration of Warsaw-Moscow relations and the lifting of western sanctions against Russia is only a “matter of time”, a Polish MP said in an interview. euractiv.com reports from Poland.
Bożena Kamińska is a lawmaker with the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) representing Poland’s eastern regions. She is a member of National Defence as well as the Contacts with Poles Abroad committee.
She spoke with EURACTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.
Do you believe that with Donald Trump as president of the United States, the sanctions against Moscow will be questioned? Is this being discussed in Poland?
Obviously, what is being discussed not only among politicians but also generally in Poland is that absolutely yes, we can foresee that it is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.
That the sanctions will be lifted you mean?
The first contact between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump showed that these countries were getting closer. In such an event, will the EU’s eastern members be put in an even more difficult position towards Russia?
This is a very difficult but good question. Because Poland is a member of NATO just like the US, and Russia is not. A very important factor for the situation in Poland will obviously be the behaviour of the new Law and Justice party in government. I am obviously from the opposition party.
And what do you fear?
I think that if the US and Russia come closer, we will face a situation where Poland and Russia will further drift further away from each other and our relations are already very cold right now. We fear that our contacts with Russia will deteriorate.
Another decisive issue is what Trump is actually going to do with NATO. Because he has declared that he will show no solidarity within the Pact and the individual countries will have to defend themselves.
Is it true that there are concerns in Poland regarding the “Suwałki Passage” (a land corridor between Poland and Lithuania, or rather between Belarus and Kaliningrad) after the Ukraine experience?
Actually, at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, a decision was made to reinforce the eastern flank of the Pact and since then, this has been in force. It could be very relevant to follow through since we see a lot of armament movement in Kaliningrad.
The Kaliningrad region has been reinforced strongly with military forces. There are also cases of Russian fighters violating Baltic airspace.
Actually, the “Suwalki Passage”, the very narrow strip of land that links the whole European continent with the Baltic States is the only continental path that we have with the Baltic region. It is, therefore, a very strategic place.
This is the only way to reach these EU and NATO countries.
Do Polish politicians fear Russian aggressiveness? Is this an actual threat?
In the past, we did not treat this scenario as something real. But since we experienced the events in eastern Ukraine and in Crimea and our contacts with Russia have deteriorated, yes, this is something that can be feared.
Since the decision was made to install some rotating troops that would rotate but maintain in a certain number of military units in the region, we have seen a lot of activity in the Kaliningrad region bringing in more military forces and Iskander missiles.
There are significant numbers of Polish migrants in the UK. What is your feeling about the UK’s intentions following the Brexit vote?
We are very concerned about our compatriots who live in the British Isles, who today number 800,000 and is the first foreign population.
Our parliamentary committee has been quite active and we have made some decisions to react, especially regarding several examples of hateful behaviours we have seen toward migrants after the Brexit vote.
On 18-19 January, after an invitation of the British embassy, the parliamentary committee for Polish people living abroad held a study visit in London, where we met members of the British parliament in Westminster to discuss Brexit.
We also met prosecutors and police officials from London and discussed the incidents that took place as well as measures to prevent them from being repeated.
As you know, the Brexit passed with a very narrow margin so the UK population is also very much divided on the issue. In our meeting with the political parties, we also saw a nearly 50-50 divide.
Regarding our meeting with the prosecution and police officers and the hate crimes that were committed, in the majority, fortunately, they don’t affect Poles but we noticed readiness to help and support our population.
In terms of this support, we have agreed that there will be a special programme dedicated to Polish citizens living in the British Isles and the UK, co-financed by our governments.
This is a program similar to the ones about the Muslim and Jewish populations, which has been in force since 1994 in order to better know their rights and enforce their security.
We also had contacts with the Polish embassy and we agreed to find an umbrella organisation that would coordinate such a programme with an aim to provide legal aid, support, and advice for Poles to be aware of their rights.
We know that the position of Theresa May is to have a hard Brexit. This is a harsh position. We know that we have two years to prepare the Poles living in the UK to have proper documents and we need to let them know about all the preparatory steps they need to take before Brexit.
They have to prove five years of work, that they pay taxes and provide a residency certificate. We will help them in getting these documents and in the event they fail to do so, we have to prepare them mentally to come back to Poland.
What about Donald Tusk’s position in the EU Council?
I have no doubt. I am sure that this government will not support Donald Tusk.
And how could this affect Polish politics?
I believe that this is going to be very harmful for the reputation of Poland because it doesn’t make any sense not to support your own candidate. I also think that this would be detrimental for the reputation of the current government.
My personal opinion is that even without the support of the Polish government, Donald Tusk will remain in Brussels.